t was the wise Dr. Seuss who wrote, “Oh, the things you can find if you don’t stay behind!”
And what finds there are to be had in Europe… evocative images of Tuscan towns bathed in golden light, lavender fields swaying in the Provence breeze, Bavarian storybook castles, and ancient monuments that never tire of telling 2,000 year-old stories of when Rome held the world in its powerful grasp.
Europe is the perfect cappuccino. It’s lifetimes of art and architecture so beautiful it can move you to tears. It’ssapphire-coloured seas and silver-green olive groves. It’s bullfights and flamenco dancers, fjords and lochs, windmills and beer.
It’s a colourful and celebratory kaleidoscope of human beings, not— as it turns out —so different from you or me.
In writing this article, I sought the opinions of my Facebook friends. What was special about Europe in their eyes?
Many of the answers were not surprising: the natural beauty, the sound of the languages, the food and wine, and the treasures found around every corner.
One friend wrote about the overwhelming sense of continuity he felt when visiting Europe:
I remember sitting in one of the rows of a Greek amphitheatre, thinking, “People have been coming to this theatre for four or five thousand years. One night in 2,500 BC, a man or a woman said, ‘Hey, I hear that new play’s good. We should go see it.'” That is what we—humans— do.
His words sent me back to a day two years ago when I was walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, an 800 kilometre pilgrimage across northern Spain. The route has been used by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims since medieval times.
On this particular day, I wandered along the remnants of an old Roman road and bridge. I had goosebumps as I crossed the bridge, thinking about the centuries of pilgrims who had stepped on those very same stones.
I felt that same sense of connection when I arrived at my final destination of Cape Finisterra on the Atlantic coast. I stood on that spit of land, giving thanks for my safe arrival and watching the setting sun turn the sky a brilliant orange.
How many other pilgrims had done the same over the last dozen or so centuries?
Of course continuity doesn’t have to span lifetimes and it doesn’t have to be profound.
My first experience with the midnight sun, for example, wasn’t in the Yukon. It was as a 15-year-old, travelling on a night train from Helsinki to Lieka in northeastern Finland. I awoke at 2 a.m. to bright sunshine pouring into my compartment window.
On that same trip I was introduced to the cloudberry, now my favourite fruit and one that my husband and I travel the Dempster Highway each summer to gleefully harvest. My first taste was with porridge, after a searing hot sauna.
Whatever the era or region, we humans are more alike than we might realize, and Europe is the perfect place to discover and revel in both our similarities and differences.
That brings me back to Dr. Seuss. He experienced Europe’s magic; he was of German descent and spent months as a young adult trekking around the European continent. I’ll leave the last words to him.
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to great places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So… get on your way!
Whitehorse writer Janet Patterson was runner-up in this year’s Foreign Correspondent competition. She and her son recently vacationed in Italy.